National Dialogue report has its failings but key deals have been reached, too

Kamotho Waiganjo, an advocate of the High Court.

I have now had the benefit of reading the entire report of the Kalonzo-Ichung’wah-led National Dialogue Committee (Nadco), including the submissions made by Kenyans on the various issues that had been identified by the committee. Like all previous reports on how to reform Kenya’s social, political, and economic dynamics, it makes for interesting reading. Parts of it read like the late George Saitoti’s 1990 Kanu Review Committee Report, speaking to the need for party discipline, 30 years after we became a multi-party democracy!

Others are almost extracts of the Yash Ghai 2005 Constitutional Review Committee Report addressing checks and balances and inclusion of the marginalised 60 years after we became an independent State.

Others are a replication of the most recent report, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) especially on issues of two-thirds gender, strengthening of devolution and creation of new Executive offices.

All these reports speak to one enduring Kenyan character - our faith in dialogue. Anyone visiting Kenya in our moments of crisis would imagine that we are about to break into incorrigible civil war, only to find our principals sitting together and addressing the same issues that appeared intractable in the immediate past.

Our faith in dialogue and the possibility of change is obvious from the eminence of the institutions and persons who appear before the various committees. Even when previous reports have been a letdown on implementation, somehow, we believe this time it will be different. This is why Kenya is one of the most sustainable countries in the region, if not in Africa. There are, however, a host of differences between the reports issued before the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution and the ones issued before. The 2010 Constitution generally resolved, at least in law, most of our major governance issues, including our governance architecture, our human rights regime and or our resource and fiscal issues.

Reports issued after that are therefore largely uninspiring with many of their recommendations being routine administrative issues that should be easily resolved through a circular from the Head of the Public Service. How, for example, can the Nadco report spend so much ink detailing routine issues like class of travel, size of delegations and per diems? Or proposing constitutional amendments to require compliance with court orders and sanctioning of the same by the courts!

There is also some laziness in dealing with critical issues that have bedevilled the country. The proposals made on resolving the marginalisation issue by merging three commissions, or resolving the two-thirds gender quagmire through more nominations, or enhancement of revenue allocation to counties by a mere five per cent, betray a lack of seriousness.

But on the electoral justice issues, the cost of living and the creation of further leadership positions–the committee must be commended for reaching an agreement. On electoral justice, it was agreed that what will be audited is the process of the 2022 elections, not the results. It thus means we have now accepted the 2022 results as fait accompli legally and politically, which is necessary so the country moves on.

On the cost of living, there were good proposals from both sides, and it is not surprising that there was no agreement on many. One party is running the government while the other is in opposition and can afford the luxury of making far-reaching popular propositions. I hope that government functionaries will review some of the progressive proposals made by Azimio and see how they can best be merged with ongoing initiatives to lower the burden of the cost of living.

On the new leadership positions, the Leader of the Official opposition gets two deputies, to align with the tripartite at the leadership level which now includes a Prime Minister, not a Prime Cabinet Secretary. Overall, like the BBI, the Nadco report has numerous positive proposals that can be adjusted administratively with minimal political will. Nothing stops the government from raising revenue to counties to the proposed 20 per cent or adjusting travel delegations and allowances to public servants. Let this report not go the BBI way where the baby of progressive proposals was thrown out with the bathwater of assault on the Constitution’s ‘basic structure’.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court